Web 2.0: Unprecedented data liabilities for users and businesses

Guest post: Drew Bartkiewicz is a Technologist and Author of the Upcoming Book, Unseen Liability.  He is a Graduate of Yale and West Point.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Guest post: Drew Bartkiewicz is a Technologist and Author of the Upcoming Book, Unseen Liability.  He is a Graduate of Yale and West Point.  He insures Web 2.0 business risks with The Hartford.  His post is a follow-up to a recent talk he gave on Web business risk. 

As an industry and as users of the modern Internet we have gone from our Internet childhood of Web 1.0, full of data innocence, data discretion, and truly permission-based advertising.  With the recent growth of personal data incidents we increasingly appear to be living during Internet adolescence, awash in personal data excess and advertising over-indulgence.

In many ways Web 2.0 is not a perfect progression of Web 1.0 aspirations.  Social networking users, for example, appear too willing to give up something of value to them today (their highly personal attributes of social, commerce, and professional dimensions) for what feels right at the moment, but without consideration for its potential privacy and reputation costs down the road.  Though Governor Palin was not a known or active social media user, her personal emails illustrated dimensions of her persona that impacted her social reputation, for better or worse.

The original concept of One to One Marketing was executed within Web 1.0 (albeit not to completion) under the mutual expectation that a user would judiciously share their personal profile with a company for better products and services, and that the company would honor its intimacy with that user.  One to One Marketing was a major technology-enabled advancement but it appeared to be practiced with prevailing business ethics for privacy respect and advertising restraint.  Words such as data transparency, privacy, and identity controls still made their way into coding decisions and advertising techniques.  Put in a more simplistic context, the company still considered the data of the user the property of the user and not the property of the company.  Personal data was parked in the company server, not surrendered for Internet eternity.  Today, this distinction is significant in politics, business, and Life.

A concerning transition has occurred over the last few years as Web 2.0 – the hungrier, more ad-driven web – has taken hold.  People on the Web are infinitely more willing to put it all out there about who they are and companies are far too hungry to make money from it, mainly in the form of the biggest online advertising spend in history.  Last year, over $19.5 B was spent on online advertising, up 110% from 2004.  It’s the gold rush of personal data mining, reaping windfall gains for those companies that can quickly collect it, package it sell it, and windfall losses of personal privacy for those users that too quickly give it up.

Though Governor Palin’s email breach occurred in the context of political sport, future data breaches will become even more personal as Web 2.0 users continue to trust a social web that has yet to be truly tested for privacy protection and data restraint. Until social norms and business laws for personal data governance are more advanced, the liability of personal data infringements will be felt dearly by users and businesses alike.  Who knows what the future holds for the data candidates of the next Presidential race.

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